I was going to post yet another sweet recipe but instead have decided to write about something which will actively improve your gut health and immunity, recently having had some requests for this wonderful fermented drink; beet kvass. One of those is from a friend living in Lyon, who yesterday told me that she had the fresh beetroot in her fridge but now needed the recipe.So, this is for you, Annette.
Kvass is simple to make, yet so beneficial to a family’s diet, general health and well-being if used regularly. Healing from eczema, I eliminated inflammatory foods like dairy and wheat but I found that it was when I actually introduced those probiotic-rich super-foods like kvass and sauerkraut (also very easily made) that my health and energy markedly improved. Beetroot is a well-known blood tonic, increasing its oxygenisation and is helpful in fighting anaemia.
Kvass is well-known in eastern European countries as a refreshing fermented drink, and my earliest memories of it were when traveling through Russia with my family at the age of 12. Talk about worlds colliding; Aussie kid’s world of ice-cold, shiny cokes and fantas dispensed by glowing vending machines all of a sudden head-to-head with the very grim consumer realities faced by Soviet Russian citizens.
I remember noticing some very long queues ( or perhaps they were simply jostling swarms of hot, thirsty commuters) around some vending machines at a metro or railway station. It was a scorchingly hot day and I thought that perhaps even I might be convinced to try some kvass along with the rest of Moscow that summer’s day. Any liquid seemed appealing. That is until I got to the head of the queue and searching desperately (with impatient commuters behind me), realized that the reason I couldn’t find any disposable cups was because there were no disposable cups. Just the one glass that would be popped back into the machine after drinking, ready for the next commuter…..
I remember reeling in horror at something that was obviously an everyday reality for these locals ( as they continued to queue and down the beverage without batting an eye). So I declined that taste-test (certain death in my eyes) of that foamy, fermented, tepid cesspool of germs. I had no idea about the immune-boosting properties of that fermented gem but the probiotics and communal glass were probably in a way a double immune-booster. If it didn’t kill them it had to make them stronger. Unfortunately I had been so traumatized by that occasion that I was completely repelled by any idea of kvass in any shape or form for years after that. Until I got unwell and started experimenting in the kitchen. I’ve used various sources for inspiration, including Sally Fallon’s ‘Nourishing Traditions’ (such a treasure trove of recipes and wisdom) and Pete Evan’s ‘Family Food’.I highly recommend both of these wonderful books.
You only need a few good ingredients and clean, sterilized equipment. Once the kvass is ready I keep it in a glass container in the fridge and mete out a shot-glass to each family member before dinner. It’s a wonderfully healthy ritual to begin. Just a tip; do not grate your beetroot. If you do, you will create too much juice and this will favour the production of alcohol. (Unless that’s what you’re aiming for!) Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
- 2-4 organic beetroot, washed and scrubbed (depending on the size). If not organic, peel as well.
- 1 tablespoon sea salt ( make sure its celtic/himalayan/grey seasalt, non-processed)
- a few tablespoons sauerkraut juice or beetroot kvass from previous batch (if you don’t have any you can double the salt but it will take longer to ferment)
- filtered water
- The first thing I do is wash the glass jar /container in hot, soapy water and then put it in my oven for at least 20 minutes at 120 degrees to completely dry and sterilize. This is important as you don’t want the bad bacteria growing, only the good. I usually begin this process at least 1/2 an hour before I’m ready to chop etc so that it can then come back down to room temperature. I once rushed the process and my lovely glass container cracked and broke.
- Wash, rinse and dry your chopping board and knife. You might want to pop it in the oven too for a little while (as long as it’s not plastic!)
- Wash, scrub (and peel if not organic) beetroot.
- Chop beetroot into medium-sized chunks, roughly 2 cms in size or slightly smaller.
- Place beetroot, salt, sauerkraut juice ( or beet kvass or extra salt) into cooled glass container. The beetroot should roughly fill half to slightly more of your container, size-wise.
- Fill the container with filtered water.
- Cover with (muslin) cloth and elastic band to keep in place.
- Leave to ferment on counter/cupboard away from light for several days. I like to leave mine for about 5 days.
- Once you are ready to bottle it, you might notice some scum at the top. Sometimes mine has some, other times not. Skim all of this very carefully off the top. You might need to repeat this process.
- I then use a very fine sieve to re-filter the liquid pouring the kvass into bottles for storage in the fridge.
- I usually keep the beetroot for a second-ferment, (I keep a few tablespoons of the kvass as the starter as well as adding the usual tablespoon of salt and water). This won’t be as strong as the first brew but is a great back-up. Once you’ve repeated the process, you can discard the beetroot cubes and start again with fresh beetroot when ready.
Enjoy! Let me know how you go and shoot me any questions that you might have. Please like and subscribe if you’ve enjoyed this article and recipe to receive future ones directly in your mail box. Thank you and happy fermenting!